Devin Townsend has no agenda when it comes to returning to Australia this week.
“You do get asked that, especially in Australia, ‘What are you going to do this time that’s going to be different than the last time?’” the multi-instrumentalist and producer explains to Rogue Inc ahead of his Australian tour with Devin Townsend Project and sleepmakeswaves, kicking off this Saturday in Brisbane.
The answer to that question is… Well there isn’t one.
As corny as it sounds (and even Townsend admits this), it’s all just about striving to be better for Canada’s metal icon. He tells Spotlight Report, “It’s interesting having as many albums as I do, and trying to put together something that works for the band and myself and the audience, but also people that have an emotional investment in any of these things.”
What are you going to do this time that’s going to be different than the last time?
Those records span decades and vast sonic textures, notably across ‘90s Vancouver metal group Strapping Young Lad, his eclectic solo material, and the astral spirit and complexity of The Devin Townsend Project (DTP). While change is an inherent, constant part of the musician, being immediately fixated on his next project, the running undercurrent is a fear of the unknown.
Yet it’s also the void which excites him.
That’s all culminated into DTP’s seventh release, 2016’s Transcendence, with Townsend enlisting Periphery’s Adam “Nolly” Getgood (bass) as the album’s additional producer, engineer and mixer. Eight months since it dropped, Townsend admits that it’s ironically the comfort zone of DTP that’s got him on edge.
“It feels like it really needs to morph into something else and Transcendence was almost like, literally that – a transcendent piece of work so that I can move onto the next thing. And what that is I’m currently battling – if you wanna look at it that way – to find out what that direction is,” he muses to Metal Injection.
During his recent chat with Tone Deaf, he gave some thought about what that direction might be, or at least his mentality going into his next phase.
He admits with a chuckle, “The leash that I’ve been on since I quit Strapping, especially with having kids, has been so short that there’s a part of me right now that’s really looking forward to losing control. But my hope is that when I do, it will be from a place where I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t, rather than self-destruction.”
Perhaps it’s Townsend’s latest work on a musical production titled ‘The Moth’ that’s allowing him to do just that. His own eccentricity mirrors that of the piece during a chat with Noisey, as he gushes, “It’s this symphony with all these cocks and vaginas and death and it’s gotta be so over-the-top, with symphonies and choirs and it’s got to include the best of the best!”
The leash that I’ve been on… has been so short that there’s a part of me right now that’s really looking forward to losing control
While he warns gleefully that the show certainly won’t be for children, the whole thing’s a larger metaphor for sex and power, and “the idea of it all being related to some sort of God who’s ultimately futile”. That’s certainly a testament to Townsend’s need to ricochet right off of his last release from DTP.
Although he hasn’t revealed too much about just how the ‘The Moth’ will dig into these concepts, his expansive projects have certainly fueled a need to, as he related recently to Louder Than War, “dig deeper thematically to find things that resonate with me.”
“It is not as simple as love and loss anymore, so I think Ocean Machine holds a place for people – and myself – because it is an archetype of what I continue to do,” he says of his second solo record, which turned 20 this year. “It was really about the big stuff in way that I simply can’t connect to in the same way anymore. These things aren’t new to me anymore. I think there’s a quaintness to the emotional content, but also sonically.”
Maybe Townsend feels that he can only peer into his past lives rather than experience them, and it’s this ebb and flow where, at times, these lives seems blurred together, while at others they’re as distinct as ever.
Having turned 45 earlier this month though, there are two things that ring clear in this era of the passionate artist’s life: being a dad, and breaking the mold of what it means to be successful.
Our chat was rich with talk of the former. “Between changing diapers, cleaning the garage and doing all the things that come with being a dad, and then trying to write a piece of music at the same time… I found that in order for me to get all the things I needed done in life, I had to be strategic about it, and patterns like waking up and exercising at a certain time really helped with that…
“With that schedule you can get a lot done, but it requires consistently changing gears, which is the only cross I’ve got to bear.”
…you need to be successful, you need to adhere to certain parameters, but that just breeds a lot of the same shit
As for breaking boundaries rather than conforming to them, that mindset bled into his online lecture on creativity last month as part of the Online Music Business Summit. That’s just one snapshot of Townsend getting in touch with some Aussie friends, with the lecture series curated by Music Business Facts’ Rodney Holder – previously the drummer for Canberra metal band Alchemist.
“A lot of the rhetoric that we hear is that you need to be successful, you need to adhere to certain parameters, but that just breeds a lot of the same shit,” Townsend asserts to Spotlight Report.
“My objectives in terms of talking or teaching are not necessarily to be the teacher, but more to try and promote whatever it is I’ve learnt to keep a creatively free angle going. It’s what I can do to contribute.”
Continue to push the boundaries and join Devin Townsend Project with sleepmakeswaves on their Aussie tour, kicking off in Brisbane this Friday May 20 – tickets on sale now.
Devin Townsend Project 2017 tour
Supported by sleepmakeswaves – tickets on sale now
Saturday, 20th May 2017
The Triffid, Brisbane
Monday, 22nd May 2017
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tuesday, 23rd May 2017 – (NEW SHOW ADDED)
170 Russell, Melbourne
Wednesday, 24th May 2017 – (SOLD OUT)
170 Russell, Melbourne
Friday, 26th May 2017